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  • Phlegm

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    Phlegm ( "inflammation, humour caused by heat") is a liquid secreted by the mucous membranes of mammals. Its definition is limited to the mucus produced by the respiratory system, excluding that from the nasal passages, and particularly that which is expelled by coughing (sputum). Phlegm is in essence a water-based gel consisting of glycoproteins, immunoglobulins, lipids and other substances. Its composition varies depending on climate, genetics, and state of the immune system. Its color can vary from transparent to pale or dark yellow and green, from light to dark brown, and even to dark grey depending on the constituents.

  • Mucus

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    Mucous cells of the stomach lining secrete mucus (pink) into the lumenMucus ( ) is a polymer. It is a slippery aqueous secretion produced by, and covering, mucous membranes. It is typically produced from cells found in mucous glands, although it may also originate from mixed glands, which contain both serous and mucous cells. It is a viscous colloid containing inorganic salts, antiseptic enzymes (such as lysozymes), immunoglobulins, and glycoproteins such as lactoferrin and mucins, which are produced by goblet cells in the mucous membranes and submucosal glands. Mucus serves to protect epithelial cells (that line the tubes) in the respiratory, gastrointestinal, urogenital, visual, and auditory systems; the epidermis in amphibians; and the gills in fish, against infectious agents such as fungi, bacteria and viruses. Most of the mucus produced is in the gastrointestinal tract. Bony fish, hagfish, snails, slugs, and some other invertebrates also produce external mucus. In addition to serving a protective function against infectious agents, such mucus provides protection against toxins produced by predators, can facilitate movement and may play a role in communication.

  • Sputum

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    Sputum is mucus and is the name used for the coughed-up material (phlegm) from the lower airways (trachea and bronchi). In medicine, sputum samples are usually used for naked eye exam, microbiological investigations of respiratory infections, and cytological investigations of respiratory systems. It is critical that the patient not give a specimen that includes any mucoid material from the interior of the nose. Naked eye exam of sputum can be done at home by a patient in order to note the various colors (see below). Any hint of yellow color suggests an airway infection (but does not indicate between the types of organisms causing it). Such color hints are best detected when the sputum is viewed on a very white background such as white paper, a white pot, or a white sink surface. The more intense the yellow color, the more likely it is a bacterial infection (bronchitis, bronchopneumonia, or pneumonia).

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